Selecting a good farmers market to sell at is no easy task. But if you’re going to follow the marketing strategy that we have used, then picking a good one or two is going to be essential to your success. The way you should approach finding a good farmers market is much like how you would approach finding a good sales and marketing firm. They need to offer you just as much as you’ll be offering them, and you should “interview” markets with that mindset.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to do a short series on how to find and assess farmer’s markets in your area. While there is no exact recipe for success, we’ll cover some ground that can help you avoid making a terrible choice of where to begin selling. Or if you are already at a market that is meeting your standards, we’ll help you figure out how to make a change to a new market that will produce good results.
The Market Master
This first point I want to start with is the Market Master. While there are several factors that need to be considered when selecting a market, the main thing you are looking for is that they are doing their best to promote the market and have your best interest at heart. Generally speaking this is going to boil down to the one person who is in charge of the farmers market. Much like the CEO of a company, everything trickles down from the top and reflects the personality of the figurehead that is in charge of the market.
We have been very fortunate to attend some very well-run markets that are not too far from our farm, making the drive very worthwhile. We have also tried some markets that were poorly run or failed for other reasons. Once you are ready to begin selling direct at a market, you will want to communicate with the market master and ask them a lot of questions to get a real sense of how it is they manage the market.
You also want to try and figure out what type of personality you’re dealing with in that person. Are they easy to get along with? Have they assembled a core group of volunteers to help with the market? Do they actively seek the input of their vendors to better the market? Are they light hearted 95% of the time, but know when to break out a big stick to deal with a rouge vendor? If you get warm fuzzies after that initial conversation, by all means proceed on with your research for this market.
I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum in my experiences. One market in particular that we attended had so much potential to be a GREAT market, but the market master there had one really effective talent: Running off good vendors! After a few seasons of dealing with his antics and attitude, we picked up and left. Sure the market continued on without us, but life is too short to deal with a sour personality each and every Saturday for six months of the year. Ever since that time, we have really focused on finding markets that have top-notch market masters and management in place. While that may seem like it isn’t a big deal, there is too much at stake when your livelihood depends on the person(s) in charge.
So in review if you are looking to attend or change markets next summer, be certain to do your homework this winter and know what – and with whom – you are going to be dealing with. You are making too big of an investment of both time and money to not do so.